So-So Deaf All-Stars

Local band The Deaf unleash raw rock power onto the world, or at least St. Paul

Haily Gostas

Judging by the droning grindcore sludge of St. Paul outfit The Deaf’s debut album “This Bunny Bites,” it’s not unfair to assume the three members could very well be self-important, self-destructing metalheads, decked out in dumpster wardrobes and smudged eyeliner.

The Deaf CD release with The Blind Shake, His Mischief and Maps Of Norway
WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Turf Club, 1601 University Ave., St. Paul
TICKETS: $5, 21 plus, (651) 647-0486

This is some mighty dirty rock ‘n’ roll, after all. Kicking off with the earsplitting sonic blitzkrieg of “Into The Fire,” “This Bunny Bites” is nonstop animosity straight through until the last of the record’s 14 brief, razor-sharp tracks (with names like “Ready To Die” and “Fuck That Shit,” no less).

Imagine the surprise then, when The Deaf reveal themselves to be a sincerely polite, charming trio of total goofballs; long-time chums who share mutual appreciations for the finer things in life, like hook-laden thrash music and mocking each other senselessly, to name a few. Shouldn’t they be off trashing a hotel room? Or passed out drunk?

ARTIST: The Deaf
ALBUM: “This Bunny Bites”
LABEL: Learning Curve Records

David Safar, Stephanie Budge and Jack Kalyuzhny formed The Deaf during the summer of 2004, but all three first met as teenagers rooted in the Twin Cities, attending Central High School and just beginning to pick up and practice their respective instruments.

“My family moved from Moscow when I was 11, but we lived in an apartment where I couldn’t play drums,” said Kalyuzhny. “My dad ended up getting me sort of a steel-type drum with a stretched condom-like pad on top to pound on,” he continued with a laugh. “But when we moved into our first house, when I was 15, I finally got my first drum kit.”

Safar too was 15 when his parents bought him a guitar. He dabbled in lesson-taking, but had never played music with anyone else until he met Kalyuzhny.

“My other friends had started a band and I wanted to play guitar for them, but they needed a bassist instead,” said Budge. “I had never picked up a bass before, but I said okay. Isn’t that how all bassist stories start out?”

For as silly and unfocused as they may seem, the Deaf’s members, now all in their mid-20s, take quite a few things very seriously.

Like their day jobs, for example. Safar studies philosophy and works for Minnesota Public Radio, Kalyuzhny tackles mechanical engineering as both a student and a TA here at the University, and Budge is working her way through law school. Despite their busy schedules, however, these three brainiacs still manage to save a special place for their music.

The Deaf’s sound is hard, fast and tough, a blistering blend of distorted, throbbing guitars, crashing drums and snarling boy-girl vocals, with “This Bunny Bites” as the true indication. To The Deaf, an album filled with tight, consistent instrumentation and gut-wrenching rawness counts for more than, say, fancily complicated melodies or masturbatory solos. They’d much prefer to get the audience off instead.

“Call us stoner punk pop if you want,” said Kalyuzhny. “Just don’t compare us to that one band Ö Zed Leppelin or whatever they’re called. I hate that!”

While each of The Deaf’s members cite the vintage psych-rock of Deep Purple as an especially heavy influence, Safar specifically thanks lesser-known hardcore acts like Kyuss, Flipper and X-Ray Specs for helping him get into the genre in the first place.

So what exactly lured this threesome of dark-humored Midwestern rockers out to the vapid plastic prettiness of Los Angeles in order to get their album made?

“The sunshine, a swimming pool and John Kuker,” explained Safar, referring to the man behind the Seedy Underbelly studios where “This Bunny Bites” was lovingly crafted. “John’s studio used to be here before relocating to L.A., and when we met him we mentioned wanting to record. We all trusted him, so we flew out there pretty quickly and that was that.”

“We hung out with Silverchair, too!” said Kalyuzhny. “I think I drank all their booze.”

Minneapolis’ Learning Curve Records, home to other local darlings like the Blind Shake, the Soviettes and a (formerly) wee little band known as the Hold Steady, scooped up the final version of “This Bunny Bites” and stamped a Feb. 6 release date on it.

Still, The Deaf has no big plans to shift away from the quiet of their local band status. Safar claims he, Stef and Jack are plenty comfortable playing for their Twin Cities’ fans.

“We’ve never really been on tour,” he said. “Maybe we don’t want to that badly. We just really like it here.”

“I think every band, to some extent, would like to live off of what they do,” Kalyuzhny added. “Of course it would be nice not to work, and to just tour and support yourself through music. But this is where we all grew up, and where I think we belong, at least for now.”

Safar lives for the antics that make shows memorable and recalls playing for a friend’s birthday party with Maps of Norway at the Turf Club (home to their upcoming CD release party) as his favorite gig yet.

“But what about the one at the Triple Rock, with Big Business? That one was crazy,” Kalyuzhny interrupted.

“Or when you got drunk and jumped off the stage at the Entry?” added Budge, collapsing into a fit of giggles.

Regardless, when it comes to The Deaf’s performances, Safar just hopes everyone leaves having had a damn good time.

Kalyuzhny agrees. “It’s about the energy, and not needing to think things through,” he said. “There’s no better feeling than that connection between the energy of the audience and the energy of what’s on stage. Just go with it and get into it!”

“But it helps if you’re drinking too,” Safar added.

“Yes, it certainly does,” Kalyuzhny replied before leaping up from his chair and jokingly announcing that, though it is only 11:00 a.m., the group is off to get wasted.

Perhaps the Deaf have traces of rock star in them after all.